Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Medicine Dream (1974)

Daphne Odjig's The Medicine Dream (1974) is from a series of drawings commissioned by Dr. Herbert T. Schwarz for their jointly authored Tales from the Smokehouse (1974).

Schwarz has a complicated history (he introduced Odjig to Picasso) and his contribution to the Smokehouse book is unclear. Toronto Star art critic Peter Goddard describes the texts as a compilation of "First Nations erotic tales," while Odjig's Wikipedia entry says the tales were "written by Herbert T. Schwarz." The ArtSask site suggests both versions are true.

Whatever the case, Odjig's The Medicine Dream is not on display at the Kelowna Art Gallery.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Exhibition Tour

On September 30 I will be giving a walking tour of the Legacy of Canadian Art exhibition at the Kelowna Art Gallery. Curated by Roger H. Boulet, the exhibition is comprised of works held in private collections by Kelowna area residents.

Among the works included are by artists Cornelius Krieghoff, A.Y. Jackson, Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, A.J. Casson, Jack Bush, Gershon Iskowitz, Jack Shadbolt, Daphne Odjig and Joe Fafard, whose painted bronze sculpture The Candidate (Chretien), 1987, appears above. 

Although I am only just now gathering my notes, I am fairly certain I will spend time on Fafard's The Candidate. Less the work itself than the significance of its subject (Chretien is the author of Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy, 1969, also known as the "White Paper") and the placement of the work at the centre of the KAG's southernmost gallery.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Came upon these while strolling through Sunnyside Park on Sunday.

Monday, August 28, 2017


On Saturday afternoon I visited the VAG. The Monet show, which shares its ground floor with some lifeless Stephen Shore pictures of the painter's garden at Giverny; the Lassry show, with its wholly appropriate dollar store busy-ness; the Pictures from Here show that I did not need to see again; and an Emily Carr I had never seen before, called Grey (1931-32).

On Sunday morning I walked south through Kensington to the Value Village at 45th and Victoria. The retaining wall in the foreground is falling -- and you can tell from the shadow of the wall beyond it that its wall has cracked.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

The arbour in back was built to support a grapevine. In fortifying it eight years ago I only made it safer for racoons.

I know when the grapes are ready because that is when the racoons show up. Last night there were four of them.

The grapes are ready, and now they are gone.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Facts (Alternative or Otherwise?) vs Convictions

The first line in Walter Benjamin's "Filling Station" (from One-Way Street, 1928)):

"The construction of life is at present in the power of facts far more than of convictions, and of such facts as have scarcely ever become the basis of convictions."

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Seventy-Six-Year-Old Hits the F Over Middle-C

Such a pretty song. First recorded by Simon and Garfunkel 51 years ago last Tuesday.

(Paul Simon)

What a dream I had
Pressed in organdy
Clothed in crinoline of smoky burgundy
Softer than the rain

I wandered empty streets down
Past the shop displays
I heard cathedral bells
Tripping down the alleyways
As I walked on

And when you ran to me, your
Cheeks flushed with the night
We walked on frosted fields of juniper and lamplight
I held your hand

And when I awoke and felt you warm and near
I kissed your honey hair with my grateful tears
Oh, I love you, girl
Oh, I love you

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Asa & Nicolai

Asa and Nicolai are artists. They do what artists do when eclipses happen: they make things to explore and communicate the world we are living in.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Birth Days

"August had the most births each year from 1990 to 2006 except for six years (1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2003 and 2004) when it was edged out by July, according to National Center for Health Statistics."

Monday, August 21, 2017

You're So Vain (1972)

(Son of a gun)

You walked into the party
Like you were walking onto a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf, it was apricot
You had one eye in the mirror
As you watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed that they'd be your partner
They'd be your partner, and

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain,
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you?
Don't you?

Oh, you had me several years ago
When I was still quite naive
When you said that we made such a pretty pair
And that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved
And one of them was me
I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee, and

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain, you're so vain
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you?
Don't you?
Don’t you?
Don’t you?

I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee, and

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain, you're so vain
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you?
Don't you?
Don’t you?
Don’t you?

Well I hear you went to Saratoga
And your horse, naturally, won
Then you flew your Learjet to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun
Well, you're where you should be all the time
And when you're not, you're with some underworld spy
Or the wife of a close friend,
Wife of a close friend, and

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain, you're so vain
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you?
Don't you?
Don't you?
Don't you?

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Timmins Dollar Store Bandana

Backyard summer parties where a guitar gets passed around and a line-up forms outside the bathroom when the guitarist starts singing "Me & Bobby McGee".

Say what you want about this song -- how tired you are of hearing it, how it enables those with little or no ability to foist it on us -- but the lyric is great, particularly the second verse; and of that verse, the first line, with its crystal clear image of two contrasting yet complementary materials -- steel and cotton.

I pulled my harpoon out of my dirty red bandana
I was playin' soft while Bobby sang the blues, yeah
Windshield wipers slappin' time, I was holdin' Bobby's hand in mine
We sang every song that driver knew

Kris Kristofferson, who co-wrote the song, says the story came to him after seeing La Strada (1954), but when I hear it now I am reminded more of Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son (1999) than I am of Fellini's movie.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017

2391 Wall Street

I remember when Bill and Geoffrey told me they purchased a house on Wall Street. I said, "Is it the one -- " and Geoffrey said "Yes."

Geoffrey sent out a note a couple days ago inviting friends to bring a friend to his studio to say goodbye, maybe take with them a broom or a boxcutter.

I texted Anne to see if she is interested.

Years ago Geoffrey came upon a portrait of my seven-year-old self, painted in 1969. A friend of my father owed my father some money, and my father said, "Instead of the money, paint a portrait of my son."

For years the portrait hung in Geoffrey's studio. I doubt he will be taking it to Kauai.

Below is the only other painting of me (that I know of). It was painted by Phillip McCrum in 1997 as part of his The French Revolution series, with me "standing in" for Jean Joseph Mounier.

Here is a picture I took of Geoffrey at the Wall Street house back in the summer of 2011.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Vancouver Skies

Vancouver's smoke-fuelled, encaustic white sky is finally blueing. But I still can't see the mountains. Makes things even more surreal -- a blue sky but no mountains before it.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Still Life

Carnations in a vase with the lights on.

Thank you, Scott, for taking the above photo. I cropped it a bit (or should I say pruned?).

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pow Wow

Last Sunday Brian, Cheyanne, Eric and I drove northwest through smoky skies to the Kamloops pow wow. Not as many in attendance as last year, said Brian, with only a third of the drummers and the stands half full, but it was fun.

Nice to run into so many friends, like my former neighbour Heidi, and Tania, Peter and Ashok, as well as Toby and Tarah (pictured above, with Cheyanne, Eric and Brian).

But oh was the air bad! The advisory for that day was a 10 -- the highest ever recorded in Kamloops.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Beer School

Last Saturday was Beer School.

Scott had expressed interest in making beer.

Kevin has made beer and has most of the gear.

Eric is making beer all the time and has worked as a brew master.

The beer made on this day was a saison.

Cheyanne helped me understand what a saison is.

Monday, August 7, 2017


Yesterday started well enough, with blue skies and golden light. But then the winds changed, and all that smoke from the Caribou.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

An argument outside. Two birds, different species. The squeal of a seagull, the caw of a crow.

What are they fighting over? The crust of a sandwich? A fish head?

From the scrape it makes: a paper bag -- with a french fry in it.

Friday, August 4, 2017

CRWR 520 (13)

Of the two vehicles I drove this past year, both had CD players. During this time I kept in my work bag between eight and ten CDs, one of which included a downloaded selection of songs left behind by a hitch-hiker. Every song on this CD begins with the letter C, from the Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love” (1964) to Bad Company’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love” (1974); from Marvin Gaye’s “Can I Get a Witness” (1964) to Todd Rudgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends?” (1978). Of these songs, many of them begin with women’s names. The first is the Beach Boy’s “Caroline, No” (1966), the last is the Everly Brother’s “Cathy’s Clown” (1960). None of these songs are sung by women. Written on the CD are the words “Karl’s Tape”.

For some reason I never feel like listening to Karl’s Tape while on Hwy 97. Only when I am travelling to Kelowna via Commonage do I reach for it and advance it to the fifth track, where Brian Wilson sings:

Where did your long hair go
Where is the girl I used to know
How could you lose that happy glow
Oh Caroline, no

Who took that look away
I remember how you used to say
You'd never change, but that's not true
Oh Caroline, you

Break my heart
I want to go and cry
It's so sad to watch a sweet thing die
Oh Caroline, why

Could I ever find in you again
The things that made me love you so much then
Could we ever bring 'em back once they have gone
Oh Caroline no

Where did your long hair go
Where is the girl I used to know
How could you lose that happy glow
Oh Caroline, no

As sophisticated as this song is, as graciously as it moves through itself, it is difficult to relate to the sentiments of its 23-year-old author Brian Wilson who, according to jingle writer Tony Asher (the song’s co-author), wishes he could return to “simpler days.” Questions about where Caroline’s “long hair” and “glow” went, and “who took that look away,” suggest a woman unable to make her own decisions, and that these decisions bring with them the death of a “sweet thing.”

Another reading of the song is not what Caroline has lost but what she has gained -- a counter-narrative that has her liberated from a gaze that defines her as someone with attributes she is no longer -- or perhaps never was -- interested in. The only thing Caroline has “lost” in pursuing herself is the young man who yearns for who he thinks she is, based on who he thinks she was. Yet even here she is not free of him, for he clings to her in the form of a reductive lyric underscored by a Gershwinian transition of major and minor 6th, 7th and 9th chords.

I am not sure why I listen to this CD while on the Commonage route to Kelowna, though sometimes I wonder if it is related to some of the beach scenes I have seen while passing through Okanagan Centre’s lowest road -- a heavily speed-bumped, 30 km/p/h section that looks at times like those stretches of coastal California I remember as a hitch-hiker in the early 1980s. Or maybe it is related to the way “Caroline, No” so nicely sets up the track that follows it: the Beatles’ surrealistic “Come Together” (1969), where “I know you, you know me” provides the ground on which the union of two subjects recognize the irreducibility of their relational subject position, what it is “to be free.”

Thursday, August 3, 2017

CRWR 520 (13)

“The Okanagan Valley is a rich and fertile land,” said Syilx knowledge-keeper Richard Armstrong to a group of us under a UBCO pine tree during our introduction to Syilx cosmology in July of last year. My first recollection of the Valley was as a child vacationing in Kelowna with my mother in the Summer of 1969 -- that long multi-clause sentence known as the Harvey Street portion of Highway 97, where orchards and fruit stands were punctuated by motels and gas stations (and vice versa). In 1971, one of Kelowna’s largest orchards was razed to become the Orchard Park Mall. Today it is all malls -- a Las Vegas of malls -- like we see along that strip north of Nanaimo after disembarking from the Horseshoe Bay ferry.

Indigenous artists and scholars like Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Tania Willard remind us that the land gives us stories, and that these stories and the land and the bodies that convey them are indivisible. Certain Eurowestern scholars speak of the land as a medium, often in unilateral terms. In his essay “Roads and Paper Routes” (1964), media theorist Marshall McLuhan reminds us that prior to the telegraph (the first instance where “the message arrives before the messenger”) “roads and the written word were closely interrelated.” The “road stories” of post-war French cinema (from the films of Jean-Luc Godard to those of Virginie Despentes) operate similarly, with the French word ballade (“trip”) and ballade (“story”) differing only in an unpronounced “e”.

During my twelve months living in and out of Kelowna I spent a good part of my time on a ranch off Westside Road near Head of the Lake. My commuting options varied, depending on where in Kelowna I was driving to. If I was driving to my apartment in South Kelowna I would take Westside, a winding road that hugged the upper reaches of the eastern slope overlooking Okanagan Lake. If I was driving to UBCO I would head north to Hwy 97, turn right and take Old Kamloops Road south along the west side of Vernon, returning to the highway at the south end of town or remaining on the highway along the east side of Swan Lake through the centre of town and from there along Kalamalka and Wood Lakes through Winfield past Ellison Lake into Kelowna. The drive from the ranch to my apartment via Westside Road is 1hr 10 mins, the drive from the ranch to campus via Hwy 97 is exactly one hour. (The drive from campus to my apartment is 25 minutes, making the Hwy 97 route to my apartment roughly 1hr and 25 minutes, or 15 minutes longer than the Westside route.)

If I chose a particular route to go from north to south I would select the other option to travel from south to north. During the first months of my commute the ideal round-trip was a loop, with each route having its own thoughts, its own music, its own tone. But as time went on I became aware of other options, like turning the loop into a figure-eight. There is something about that crossing, where Okanagan Centre Road meets Glenmore Road, that haunts me. When I told this to one of the older punters at the Eldorado he nodded knowingly.

“The Duck Lake Gang,” he said into his pint glass.

“Where is Duck Lake?”

“Duck Lake is Ellison Lake.”

“Who was Ellison?”

“Price Ellison was a land baron who settled in the area in the 1870s. He grew wheat and raised cattle and at one time owned eighty-percent of the arable land in the north central Okanagan.”

“What does Price Ellison have to do with the Duck Lake Gang?”

“Nothing,” he said, taking a swig from his glass.

“Who is the Duck Lake Gang?”

“The Duck Lake Gang was the enemy of the Pixie Beach Gang.”

“So the two gangs had it out at the junction of Okanagan Centre Road and Glenmore?”

“Didn’t say that.”

“So what are you saying?”

“Just as well you don’t know.”

“You made this up.”

He turned to me. “Made what up? I’ve told you nothing.”

“Correction -- you’re making this up. You just don’t know how it ends yet.”

“It ends with the death of a clown named...Cathy!”

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

CRWR 520 (12)

I am back at the Eldorado having drinks with the woman who took me on a tour of Mission sandbags. She called the day before to say she had some research she wanted to share, but when she showed it to me (written in looping longhand on her grandmother’s surplus steno pads) it had nothing to do with anything we had talked about and everything to do with a novel she wanted to write about her friend’s year as a sex worker in Fort McMurray.

“I read your book The Pornographer’s Palm and I thought you handled the sex scenes nicely.”

“That would make a nice blurb for the re-issue,” I told her. But before I could correct her on the title, she was telling me about the Fort Mac fire.

“The brothel burned down. I always wanted to go there -- she offered to take me on a tour of it -- but now it’s gone and I need to visit a brothel before I can write about one.”

“I’m not sure that’s something you need to do. There are other ways to write about things you haven’t experienced directly.”

“Name one,” she said accusingly.

“Well, how about janitorial work. Cleaning offices at night.”

“I’ve done that,” she said.

“Ever thought to write about it?”

“No,” she flatly.

“Okay, so you need to visit a brothel. Or better yet, you could ask your friend to tell you about the one she worked at and take notes on your steno pad.”

“I don’t think you’re taking me seriously,” she said.

“I could say the same of you,” I said, adding that the basis of our acquaintance is sandbags, and it only achieved mutuality with Polanski. We never talked about our interest in writing.

“Let’s write something together!” she beamed.

It was then that I confessed I was recording our conversation, based on her granting me permission to record her the last time we spoke.

“So we’re writing a play!” she declared.

“In a manner of speaking, yes,” I said. “But we would edit it later, boil it down, maybe find a strand to develop further.”

“How do you find these strands?” she asked. “How do you know when you’ve found one?”

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

CRWR 520 (11)

The day before the Lake Country fire I drove to Vernon via Commonage where I stopped at Okanagan Centre to take pictures of sandbags. The wharf there allowed me to get a reverse view of the sandbags as well as those huge concrete blocks the Ministry uses to retain waterfront roads. I was returning to my car when a man in his mid-60s came out of some bushes, led by his mini-me terrier.

“’Cha doin’?” he asked with a grin that suggested he knew better.

“Takin’ pictures,” I smiled.

“Snapshots,” he said looking at my phone, still grinning.

“Sure,” I said easily.

“That’s my house over there,” he pointed.

I nodded, not looking.

“C’mere,” he said as I passed him.

I turned around.

“You’re interested in something.”

“I’m interested in a lot of things,” I said.

“I have a son about your age.”

“Whom you fathered when you were ten,” I said.

“I’ll be seventy-eight in August.”

“I don’t believe you.”

In a single motion he reached into his back pocket, pulled out his wallet and opened it to his driver’s licence.

He was sixty-four years old.

“You’re a liar,” I said.

“Yes, but I proved it, didn’t I?”

“I’m interested in sandbags,” I said. “In public space I see sandbags as emblems of collaborative activity, but in private space I equate them with capitalist accumulation. I consider it a problem worth pursuing. Can you help me?”

“I have sandbags in front of my property, and I’m a socialist.”

“How do you know you’re a socialist?” I asked.

“I know because I married one.”

“So it's infectious?” I said.

And with that he told me about the septic fields. All up and down Carr’s Landing and across the lake off Westside Road, how most of these fields were snuck in illegally, too close to the water and poorly built to boot. Nobody imagined the water rising higher than it had this April. But there are a lot of instances like that in life, and now the elements are having their say.